There is a growing phenomenon among the Rays, and you see it on their faces.
More than a dozen Rays are sporting some form of facial hair — from Andy Sonnanstine's full beard to Rocco Baldelli's scruffy (grizzly?) look to J.P. Howell's "chin strap."
"A beard-ish summer," said Jonny Gomes, describing his own as "edgy."
It was rooted in a hockey tradition, as Baldelli grew a "playoff beard" in support of his (somewhat) hometown Boston Bruins. When they got iced, he switched his support to the Celtics (who did slightly better in the NBA postseason).
A few other players started growing beards in support of Baldelli, who is trying to come back from a rare muscle fatigue condition. "I'm hoping to grow it out until he plays again in the big leagues," Sonnanstine said.
But then something hairy happened — the Rays started winning, and winning, and winning. (And liked the look and the who-cares attitude it conveyed.)
"Now," Howell said, "it's for the squad."
Not all the beards are necessarily for a cause. Troy Percival regularly rotates among beard, goatee and clean-shaven. Trever Miller was unsure when Sonnanstine told him he'd look "majestic" but very sure when his wife liked it. And there's Gary Glover, who said, "I'm just lazy."
With the All-Stars named today, here's a look at the Rays' past stars, ranked from most to least worthy, based on their stats when chosen:
1. Jose Canseco, 1999 Led AL with 30 homers and 66 RBIs and is still the only Ray ever elected by fans. He got hurt and couldn't go.
2. Rolando Arrojo, 1998 Was second in AL with 10 wins and sixth with 3.02 ERA at the time.
3. Carl Crawford, 2004 His .316 average and rank among AL leaders in hits, runs, steals and triples earned the respect of his peers, who voted him a Houston homecoming.
4. Scott Kazmir, 2006 His 9-5 record and 3.59 ERA got him a fifth-place finish on the players' ballot; Crawford deserved to go, too. 5. Roberto Hernandez, 1999 Converted 24 of 27 saves, with a 3.65 ERA; only year Rays had two stars.
6. Carl Crawford, 2007 Even Crawford was surprised to be picked with good but not great stats.
7. Fred McGriff, 2000 Sort of a career achievement reward for getting his 400th homer and 2,000th hit, plus a return to Atlanta.
8. Greg Vaughn, 2001 His 20 homers and 57 RBIs were good, .249 average not so good. He got hurt and couldn't play.
9. Danys Baez, 2005 Unimpressive numbers (13 saves, with a major-league-high six blown, and a 2.65 ERA) were enough when there wasn't room for Crawford.
10. Randy Winn, 2002 On a very bad team, his .307 average made him about the only option.
11. Lance Carter, 2003 He had 14 saves (and six blown) with a 4.17 ERA, but the only way to fit a Ray was to add a pitcher, meaning Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff got jobbed. This is still cited as an example of why all teams shouldn't have to be represented.
How's this for progress? With their next (55th) win, they'll match their total for the 2002 season; only LF Carl Crawford and 3B coach Tom Foley remain. … ESPN has shown the Rays four times; Bloomberg reports Fox might finally be interested, eyeing the Aug. 23 game in Chicago for national air. … Chris Rock might be the biggest name celeb the Rays have had at a game. Susan Sarandon, Rob Reiner, Vanna White and Stephen King come to mind. … As if playing the Red Sox anthem Sweet Caroline after completing the sweep wasn't enough of a jab, the Rays did it again Friday with a pregame highlights package. … LHP Cedrick Bowers, a fourth-round pick in the 1996 inaugural draft, finally got to the big leagues, debuting Wednesday with Colorado. … So did INF Wes Bankston, a touted 2002 pick, with Oakland. … With one more win by the All-Star break, all Rays get those plush robes Jonny Gomes has sported. … Dick Vitale's estimate that he has spent around $250,000 on season tickets is about right. "And he pays his bills," team president Matt Silverman said.
Got a minute?
Best meal you make? PBJ, with cheese Doritos in there. And what's sad is that's true, I'm pretty brutal cooking. I've done like two meals in my life.
Must-see TV? Weeds, man, on Showtime.
Band you'd like to be on stage with? Dave Matthews — that's easy.
Guilty pleasure at the mall? Shoes, I'm talking shoes. Any kind of shoes, I love. I've got too many already, like 70 pairs. (Most expensive?) Some Louis Vuittons, they were like $550.
Dream date? Brooke Hogan — because Brooke Knows Best. I watch her all the time.